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Woodbridge Bridge Club History

Lilian and I moved to Woodbridge in 1960. After settling in our new home, our first priority was to find the bridge players! It occurred to us that, if a Bridge Class could be started at Farlingaye, all our problems would be solved. We then approached Mr Michael French, the then head of the Evening Institute, and suggested that he offered a Contract Bridge Class. He agreed - and this was duly advertised. We had 71 applications - including one from the Chief Constable and another from a Consulting Surgeon at Ipswich. The introduction of Contract Bridge at Farlingaye gave us some welcome publicity - including a question being asked at a County Council meeting as to whether the Council was aware that public money was being spent at Farlingaye teaching the public to play cards. The Chairman of the County Council replied to confirm that there was a Contract Bridge Class at Farlingaye - and it was the only Class making a profit!

I quickly realised the impossibility of trying to teach a Class of 71 students so I called a public meeting and suggested that what was needed was a Bridge Club rather than a Bridge Class. This was agreed unanimously.

There was no suitable accommodation in Woodbridge so I commissioned Squadron Leader Cecil Ward and George Grimwood to find the nearest acceptable village hall. They focused on the village hall at Hasketon and were able to make arrangements with the Parish Council for its use. It was there that the Club was formerly opened by Sir lan Jacob.

Later, Grundisburgh village hall became available and the Club was transferred there because it was more accessible for the members.

The Club's trophies were gradually acquired. Cecil Ward decided to resign as Secretary because of his wife's ill health. The committee decided to make a presentation and a collection was taken for this purpose. Sadly, Cecil died before a presentation could be made and the committee decided to use the money to buy the "Cecil Ward" trophy. Cecil had a son serving with the RAF in the Middle East and it seems that he had kept his son fully in the picture about the formation of the Woodbridge Bridge Club. I even had a letter from Cecil's son, Wing Commander Ward, asking if there was any copyright on the material supplied by his father as he wished to use this material to start a bridge club at his own RAF station- I reassured him about this and told him of the committee's response to his father's death. He then offered to add a further trophy in memory of his mother. The committee accepted this offer.

The "Fellingham" cup has a less glamorous history! When the Club became a totally duplicate Club, there was a need for something for the members to play for. I canvassed a number of local celebrities to provide us with a trophy but got no response so Lilian and I decided to give one ourselves. The "Fellingham" cup now in use was bought from a pawn broker in Bury St Edmunds, suitably engraved and handed over to the Club. This imaginative approach to providing a cup backfired on me! After a year or two, the cup was beginning to look shabby and I had to have it re-plated at a far greater cost.

I will conclude this brief history of the Woodbridge Club with the comment that, from the outset, the Club has always insisted on good manners at the card table. To illustrate this, I can say that an application for membership from a prominent member of Parliament was once refused because of his unreasonable criticism of his partner's play!

Tony Fellingham

26th July 2004